Anthology was not a word that made it to my most used word list earlier. Other than the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, there weren't many that caught my eye either. But in the recent few months, especially since I took to Writing, if there has been one thing that I have been crossing paths with, it has been Anthologies. There are too many of them mushrooming all over; wherever I look there is an Anthology staring back at me; they all seemed the same, not really making me sit up but that was until Mango Chutney came along.
I stopped and gave it a second look. Not only because I had the privilege of knowing a few of the Authors who had contributed to it but because of the fine way in which they had marketed its launch; it had been a lot more enticing and teased the reader into laying their hands on the first copy that was made available. I did just that; so did many others confirming how successful the promotions and campaigns were.
Given the marketing that was done and the teasers that had tormented the reader in me, my expectations were high from this Chutney which proclaimed itself to be an Anthology of tasteful short fiction. It did taste good in bits and pieces but it also had moments that left a sour taste in the mouth.
The Chutney has many ingredients ranging from Romance, Friendship, Birthdays and Sweets to Deceit, Hypocrisy, the Partition, Horror and even Sci Fi and cooking an egg thrown in for good measure. An array of diverse fiction; there were a few stories that stood out for me purely for the tight narration and the ability of the Author to convey what they wanted to, with the right amount of emphasis on both the language as well as the emotion in the tale.
The 37th Milestone by Abhishek Asthana – Writing a Horror story and being able to make a shiver run down the Readers spine is no mean task to achieve. Abhishek does it well with this story especially with the suspense he builds and does not let go off till the very end.
Tainted Red by Aathira Jim – Having been a regular reader of Aathira’s blog, I found this story to be immensely different from her usual style. She did a wonderful job in evoking the emotions and intensity of what her protagonist feels and goes through in a distant land. The depth she gave to her protagonist’s character stayed with me even after I had moved on to the next piece in the series.
The Birthday Boy by Harsha Pattnaik – This piece stood out not only for its narration but also for the fact that it oozed out of the pen of a fourteen year old. I doubt many of us could have written as well as Harsha has at this age. This girl will surely go places.
Someone with Character by Alka Gurha – A simple story but one that holds true even today in India. Having come across similar characters I could relate to Alka’s narrative all the more. Despite the issue she brings out in this tale being an age old one, her narration and flow of the story tugged at the heart for me.
Prem Ki Chashni by Sudhanshu Shekhar Pathak – A very sweet story told with a tightly held narration despite it being a translation from Hindi to English, this story made me smile all throughout. The credit for the effective translation must go to Harsh Sudhanshu as well.
There were a few others which I enjoyed reading; especially Angels and Demons by Purba Ray, The Perfectly Poached Egg by Ramya Maddali, The Girl Who Owned Castles by Giribala Joshi, Vaman by Rohit Gore and On the Other Side by Sakshi Nanda. However if not for giving me a “this is already tried and tested” or "could there have been more to it?" feeling, some of them left me wanting for more emotion rather than just words from the tales. What did stand out for me among these was the narration style that Purba Ray adopted; it was entirely different from the styles the remaining twenty six had used in this Anthology and would have worked really well if it had been more tightly coupled and descriptive.
These were the moments I truly enjoyed in this book but unfortunately there were times when I felt let down.
Some of the stories that I came across left me wondering not only about the narration but about the stories themselves thus not really making the cut for me. While all were structured in a similar format, I was taken aback by a Moral being added to one of them, it made me look back and forth wondering if all of the twenty seven were meant to have them; somehow it stood out like a sore thumb.
From an editing standpoint, I wish some more effort was put in avoiding simple typographical errors, while I tried ignoring them, they were proving to be quite a hindrance at some places, sometimes even threatening to take away the essence from the stories. Some of the metaphors used across the book also seemed forced and did not relate to the point being made, making me wonder if the story would have been more emphatic with their absence.
Having said that; Mango Chutney is a wonderful platform that brought out talent which otherwise might have taken longer to be discovered. A onetime read, I would recommend this book to those who wish to read tales based in India and want to experience the potential of the Indian Author of tomorrow coming to the surface.